I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Trouble With Smiting Envy

Cart Smite
"And Lo, with my cart I shall smite thy ankles..."
I think all writers embed traits in their characters that they identify with on many levels whether or not we’re even aware that we’re doing it. Sure, we can make our characters noble, strong, and full of integrity and other do-gooder stuff. It’s always fun to write a hero because just about all of us spent hours in childhood running around with blanket-capes, make-shift swords, or feather duster magic wands rescuing neighbor kids or the family dog from some unthinkable dragon or other beast. As a kid, you dream about being the hero everyone loves. But then we grow up and start secretly dreaming about being the villain because at some point we discover that the bad guys really do have all the fun.  Think about it… how often during the day do you pause to daydream about saying what you REALLY want to say to that customer, or getting even with the jerk on the road, or saying something inappropriate to the 8-year old in the line behind you at Walmart that keeps banging your ankles with the cart while his mom plays on her iPhone?

If any of those last three scenarios ring true to you, then Congratulations: You’re well on your way to villainy! Maybe not on a world domination level, but you’re certainly not alone in your secret evil-doer desires. In fact, just last night Steven made me aware of one of my own villainous day dreams I've been living out through my writing, completely unaware (or in denial), of course. 

We were trying to leave Publix during rush hour and it turned into a game of Dodge the Idiot about to back into you, Dodge the Idiot about to walk into your car, and ended with sitting stuck behind the person who took a good 5 minutes to decide which way to turn. That trip gave me a fresh reason to curse someone on an average of every five seconds. And curse them I did! That was when Steven made the connection for me: “It’s a good thing you don’t have a smiting problem,” he said.

But oh, how I wish I did!

The smiting problem referenced is a constant growing pain of the young demi-goddess Trotter in my fantasy series. Her smiting finger has a mind of its own; anytime something frightens her or just particularly irritates her, her out-of-control powers decide to smite the offender for her. Usually it’s by accident. But Steven made me realize that I’ve been writing my own secret revenge dreams not into my villains, but into my hero! I’ve had a ton of fun writing about the smiting debacles, but with her it’s an unconscious reaction rather than a conscious intent to burst some annoying person into flames.

Maybe it’s because I managed to sneak my own villainous urges into my hero that I didn't recognize it for what it was – apparently my guilty subconscious pulled that one off right under my nose – but now that I've made that connection to Trotter, I feel like I’m more open to explore this dark side that I've already planted in her from my own evil roots. Even heroes blow up at people when they’re stressed (notice I said blow up AT people, not blow people up), so it might even help me make her a more tangible character as I work my way through this series. Nobody can believe in a perfect hero anymore, after all.

I think my next writing exercises are all going to involve putting her in some dark scenarios and letting her just do what comes naturally. Besides… I have to make a Walmart trip again soon and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of pent-up villainous urges to deal with J